34 comments on “59?

  1. A huge hole. The biggest. Never seen one like it.

    What I don’t understand is, why did the Syrians bother to use gas? It’s not like they needed to.

  2. The conventional warhead is 1,000 lbs, and they can be independently targeted.
    So more likely 50-odd holes and an awful lot of smoking rubble.

  3. Given Assad is Russia’s bessie mate, how are the “Putin owns Trump” mob reconciling this with their beliefs?

  4. The tomahawks were probably coming up to their expiry date…
    “Shall we go to all the bother of taking them home and dealing with all the environmental rules about disposing of them?”
    “Nah, just dump them in Syria.”

  5. Assuming it’s the Yanks who fired them, the air base will still be there but every civilian building within twenty miles will have been flattened.

  6. @TomJ: the fact that his mortal enemies are now singing his praises really ought to be a clue that The Donald done messed up, big time….

  7. “Richard
    April 7, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Assuming it’s the Yanks who fired them, the air base will still be there but every civilian building within twenty miles will have been flattened.”

    Nah man, we’re not the Russians.

    If we fired them then every civilian building withing 20 miles *and* the base will have been flattened.

  8. A waste of time. It shows Trump is upset but little more than that. Less than 30 tonnes of explosives dropped on a target the size of an airfield?

    That’s about the same as five early model Lancaster bombers.

    What is interesting is that in the Cold War, the US and the USSR tried to keep their forces apart. Presumably in case things escalated. They only fought indirectly through proxies. So no US soldiers were sent to Hungary in 1956 or to Afghanistan. Officially no Soviet soldiers were sent to Korea or Vietnam.

    So what is Trump going to do if Russian air strikes kill US soldiers? By “accident” of course.

  9. Why would Assad throw everything into hazard when he is close to winning? Either a false flag or some of ISIS gas hit by accident.

    This–and the fact Trump seems to be divesting himself of those who helped him win in favour of neocon dickheads is not a good sign.

  10. Mr Ecks – “This–and the fact Trump seems to be divesting himself of those who helped him win in favour of neocon dickheads is not a good sign.”

    Indeed. Why should America fight to further Israel’s interests?

    Maybe he was horrified by the pictures. But actually having a plan is another matter. Who thinks that there is an American solution to this conflict? For that, America would need Syrian friends. A faction they could put in power. Like Chalabi? Like that Gay buffoon in Afghanistan?

    CNN is praising him. That ought to be a sign he has made a mistake. Trump should realise that the best policy is whatever CNN hates.

  11. TomJ

    “Given Assad is Russia’s bessie mate, how are the “Putin owns Trump” mob reconciling this with their beliefs?”

    I suspect this is the main reason. What else would he achieve firing off 59 past their ‘best before’ date missiles into a largely vacant airfield.

  12. Surreptitious Evil – “WTFF? Limited military power? Russia?”

    Are they making a dozen new tanks a year? A dozen new planes? From what I can see doing a quick google search, the Russians have stopped making the T-90 in 2011 and they have not yet started making the T-14 Armata – they have some prototypes but no more.

    It doesn’t look like they are doing that well on the unlimited military power side of things. They have what the Soviets left them.

  13. Why would Assad throw everything into hazard when he is close to winning? Either a false flag or some of ISIS gas hit by accident.

    Don’t discount gross incompetence. They could have accidentally mixed up bombs carrying chemicals with conventional ones, no?

  14. Very disappointed with The Don over this. I’m pretty sure a heck of a lot of his supporters voted for him in order to put a stop to the insane Mid East meddling of Clinton, Obama and Bush. Doesn’t he know by now to never do anything the neocons want?

  15. “The conventional warhead is 1,000 lbs”: can anyone tell me whether conventional explosives have much the same destructive power as they had in WWII?

    WKPD: “The Grand Slam was a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) earthquake bomb used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War. It was the most powerful non-atomic bomb used in the war.” aka “Ten ton Tess”.

  16. Trump is meeting Xi this week and has threatened Xi’s client in North Korea with Armageddon or worse. It’s an inexpensive demonstration by Trump that he has the balls to chuck missiles at a friend of Putin – so why not a friend of Xi? This might even have the effect of Xi leaning on NK.

  17. Yes, and moreover Trump gave a heads-up to the Russians (which was probably wise in order to avoid having US munitions killing Russian soldiers). The Russians surely warned their Syrian allies. The Syrians in turn surely evacuated too and took any expensive, mobile equipment (i.e., air planes) with them.

    So all the expenditure for 59 tomahawk missiles (which collectively cost close to $100 million) was to damage some cheap asphalt runways and concrete hangars. Hell of a ratio of damage inflicted to price paid. Positively Obamaesque.

  18. SMFS,

    On the Russian military, despite having the largest percentage of GDP spending of any middle-large economy globally, their actual annual spend is less than that of Germany and France combined (so far less than Europe combined, even without the UK which is only just behind Russia) and is dwarved by that of the US.

    Furthermore, unlike all those powers they are using obselete equipment far more (and where they are not, it is limited – they lost 25% of their modern multiuse single seaters when one crashed on the way to Syria last year). Their major airpower element is still cold war-era bombers, which would presumably find it difficult to actually deliver payloads against a modern airforce or air defences (note they are only using jets in Syria that I’ve seen).

    And the Russian ability to flood the field with solidiers, so useful in the past, is rather foundering on the declining birth rates, raising alcholism and the fact that it would not be in the interest of many of the ministers and local leaders to support a war.

  19. Back in Dec 2015 the airbase was reported as being taken over by the Russians allowing them to control Syrian airspace (business insider). So the Russians plus Assad, on the verge of beating ISIS suddenly decide to do the one thing almost guaranteed to allow/bring the Americans back to Syria. Anyone might suspect a false flag, especially 4 days after the Israelis announce a pipeline deal via Cyprus putting the Qatari/Saudi/Turkey plan for a pipeline and thus regime change in Syria back on the agenda. Just saying.

  20. As EdM says, these things have a shelf life, might as well fire them at something rather than decommission them. Improved generations also help to obsolete the old ones until you are really getting through them, then economics applies:

    http://www.snopes.com/rumors/bush.asp

    Talking to someone I know familiar with the technology, the latest ones can have multiple targets and an on arriving on scene can determine if the target has already been destroyed and autonomously take themselves off to the next target. Given all these went in the same hole, likely it was to make a point and use up some stock.

  21. From a weaponeering point of view, 59 TLAM fired (meaning, probably, sixty planned with one failure to launch) translates to fifteen to twenty aim points (what used to be called Designated Mean Points of Impact – DMPI), with the number of weapons assigned to each based on figures from the Joint Munitions Effects Manuals (JMEM) based on “number required to be confident of doing enough damage, with margin for in-flight failure and enemy AD”.

    TLAM is very accurate against fixed targets which you’ve got good imagery of, which would be the fixed infrastructure at an operational Syrian field like Shayrat, but its terminal effects are relatively limited: either a unitary HE warhead (roughly equivalent to a 1,000lb bomb) or 166 dual-purpose bomblets (limited armour-piercing capability with fragmentation and incendiary area effects – about equivalent to our dear, departed BL755 cluster bomb). However, the ability to deliver that warhead with an accuracy of “metres, few enough to only need one hand” does make up for lack of raw explosive power in some cases.

    I’m sceptical that they’ve done a great deal of damage to ammunition bunkers and hardened aircraft shelters; the warhead isn’t designed for that (which is why we have TLAM for softer targets at longer range, and Storm Shadow for hardened bunkers, in UK service; but radar and other airfield infrastructure, aircraft in the open, the control tower, and other less robust targets may have taken a kicking.

    This will put a crimp in the airfield’s operational status, probably mostly shut it down for 24-48 hours while they replace and repair infrastructure and do the mother of all FOD walks, but won’t destroy it. Demonstration and (fairly forceful) gesture rather than determined destruction.

    The next step would likely be heavy bombers from CONUS (probably tanked from somewhere like Ascension or the UK) which is a step up in firepower: one B-52 can haul 20 AGM-86 missiles, each of which has TLAM accuracy and range but a 3,000lb warhead, either blast-frag or hard-target penetrator, which goes from rearranging the flowerbeds on a hardened aircraft shelter to destroying it and its contents… if there’s a next step, that is.

  22. Umbongo: +1. It also looked to me like a subtle message to the Chinese, and I don’t suppose he minds too much that he’s pissed off the Russians big time. I think I would be worried though if he continues to do more than just bad-mouth Assad.

  23. > So all the expenditure for 59 tomahawk missiles (which collectively cost close to $100 million) was to damage some cheap asphalt runways and concrete hangars. Hell of a ratio of damage inflicted to price paid.

    I expect there’s a stockpile of Tomahawks with a best-before date in near future. If you have to write them off anyway, you can train with them, and to actually launch them is maybe considered the best training.

  24. Anyone might suspect a false flag, especially 4 days after the Israelis announce a pipeline deal via Cyprus putting the Qatari/Saudi/Turkey plan for a pipeline and thus regime change in Syria back on the agenda.

    Oh God, not another fucking pipeline-war conspiracy. People don’t go to war over pipelines, they just don’t.

  25. > As the Pentagon throttles back on weapons spending, it is confronting a delicate question: Will its contractors be able to supply those arms quickly if it needs them again?

    The current generation of Tomahawk missiles were introduced in 2004 and are expected to have a 30-year shelf life (with recertification after 15 years).

    Could those Idlib Tomahawks been older generations that had a shorter life span, were just kept for at least 14 years, just happened to be on the right launch platforms, and ready to be burned off? I don’t know enough about how that program operates to say that is impossible, but it strikes me as unlikely.

  26. @JuliaM, April 7, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Big +1

    When I heard the news of Trump attack on Syria last night, my first thought was:

    sh1t, you’ve fallen for deep state lies and manipulation – unless he’s playing a game

    Many hours later I still think the same.

    btw I don’t believe Assad the alleged sarin attack

  27. “JuliaM
    @TomJ: the fact that his mortal enemies are now singing his praises really ought to be a clue that The Donald done messed up, big time….”

    Or it shows that he is reacting to circumstances and isn’t working from a fixed playbook. It is probably quite easy to tell whether any chemical weapons were fired from planes or were already on the ground – presumably the bombs carrying chemicals carry less explosives and cause less blast damage. Trump is showing his business acumen. Not only is he reacting, but he is doing it in a measured way that mitigates many of the downsides, punishing Syria without giving the Russians the opportunity to get too irate.

  28. “WTFF? Limited military power? Russia?”

    Russia has just cut its annual military budget to $48 billion. That is less than any one of the US (600), China (200), Saudi Arabia (85), UK (55), France (50) and India (50). Super power? Not so much these days it would appear.

  29. @ Alex
    Money isn’t everything: Stalin spent a million-plus men killed and another million sick or wounded (plus hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties) to defend Stalingrad against quarter of a million Germans whose survivors surrendered when they ran out of bullets – a favourite meme among some SF authors who claim that one can will a battle if you have more men than the enemy has bullets.

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